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Mapping Middle Eastern Oil Concessions Immediately Prior To World War II

Interesting manuscript map of the Arabian Peninsula and environs, setting forth the various Petroleum Concessions and lands of a number of oil companies in the region on the eve of the Second World War.

Based upon the lands identified as "Caltex" and the lands referenced as "Protectorat d'Aden" (the undivided Aden Protectorate, which was split into an Eastern and Western Protectorate in 1940), we date the map as circa 1938.

The map is filled with contemporary names and oil concessions, reflecting the state of the Arabian Peninsula at the outset of World War II.

To the east of the Arabian Peninsula, the 1928 Line is noted.  This is the line established by the 1928 Group Agreement or “Red Line” Agreement  between several American, British, and French oil companies concerning the oil resources within territories of the former Ottoman Empire within the Middle East. The origins of the Red Line Agreement can be traced back to the initial formation of the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC) in 1912.  The TPC was a joint venture between the Turkish Naitonal Bank, Royal Dutch Shell and Deutsche Bank, which was intended to promote oil exploration and production in the region. In March 1914, the British Government, which controlled the Turkish National Bank, caused the transfer of its interests to the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. In June 1915, the Ottoman Grand Vizier promised an oil concession to TPC to develop oil fields within the Baghdad Province and Mosul Province.

Along the southern Gulf coast, the map shows the following "concessions" along the area noted as the Coast of Pirates.  

  • Petroleum Concessions Ltd.  Katar
  • Abu Dabi P.C.L.
  • Dub Bai P.C.L.
  • P.C.L. Ras el Khaima
  • P.C.L. (Oman)

The map shows the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), which was jointly owned by a consortium of the world's largest oil companies.  Prior to 1929, IPC was the Turkish Petroleum Company.  Between 1925 and 1961, IPC held a virtual monopoly on all oil exploration and production in Iraq. 

Throughout the map, the name Petroleum Concessions Limited (PCL) appears.  In 1932, Petroleum Concessions Ltd was incorporated by IPC to negotiate oil concessions beyond Iraq. Through associated companies, the IPC group extended its operations to cover an area larger than Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana combined. Major oil fields were later discovered at Dukhan in Qatar in 1940 and at Murban, Bu Hasa, Asab, Sahil and Shah in Abu Dhabi in the 1960s.

In the center of the map, three large swaths of the Peninsula is labeled "Caltex." The California Texas Oil Company (Caltex) was the partnership formed in 1936 by Standard Oil and The Texas Company.  Caltex was a partner in the California Arabian Standard Oil Company, which became the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco) in 1944.

The map notes "Transjordanie".  The Emirate of Transjordan existed as a British protectorate from 1921 to 1946, at which time it gained its Independence, becoming the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan (Jordan).

The map identifies "Colonie d'Aden".  Aden Colony was a British Crown colony from 1937 to 1963 located in the south of modern day Yemen.

The map identifies "Protectorat d'Aden."  Aden Protectorate was a British protectorate near the port of Aden and in the Hadramaut following the conquest of Aden by the Bombay Province of British India in 1839, which continued until the 1960s. In 1940 it was divided for administrative purposes into the Western Protectorate and the Eastern Protectorate. This suggests that the map pre-dates 1940.

The map shows "Arabie Seoudienne."  This is the shortened French name for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which was created by Abelaziz ibn Saud in 1932.

The map shows the Koweit Oil Cy. Kuwait Oil Company was founded in 1934 by Anglo-Persian Oil Company and Gulf Oil as an equally owned partnership. The company was granted oil rights in December 1934 and the company started drilling operations in 1936. 

Near Kuwait, the map shows the "Zone Neutre".  This is the Saudi Arabian–Kuwaiti neutral zone, also known as the Divided Zone, an area between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait left undefined by the Uqair Convention of 2 December 1922. The zone was created to accommodate the Bedouins, who wandered back and forth between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and for whom nationality was a hazy concept.  The Uqair Convention stated that "the Government of Najd and Kuwait will share equal rights until through the good offices of the Government of Great Britain a further agreement is made between Najd and Kuwait concerning it".  The "Neutral Zone" was thereafter left unchanged until the discovery, in 1938, of oil in the Burgan (Burqan) of Kuwait. With the possibility of oil discovery within the "Neutral Zone" itself, concessions were granted in 1948–1949 by each government to Aminoil and Pacific Western Oil Corporation.